Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan met with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his visit to Fujian on Mar. 31, 2021, where he was hosted to dinner by his Chinese counterpart.
Expressed alarm over escalating violence in Myanmar
During their discussion, both sides touched on bilateral topics including the introduction of Covid-19 health certificates for future air travel and regional issues including the current situation in Myanmar.
Vivian expressed his alarm over the escalating violence in Myanmar in an interview with the media after his meeting with Wang, and called for the military authorities in the country to "act with restraint (to) de-escalate the violence".
He shared that both China and Singapore hopes for the de-escalation of tensions or cessation of violence, and for political dialogue to occur.
However, both sides agreed on the importance of respecting the "principle of non-interference in domestic matters" in Myanmar.
"Ultimately, the fate and the future of Myanmar lies in the hands of its own people. We can try to help -- Asean, the UN certainly tried to help - in a constructive, non-interfering way, but in a way that allows dialogue to occur."
Unable to provide "timetable" for possible leisure travel in China, but making good progress
The two foreign ministers also took stock of progress since December 2020's 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), including on facilitating greater air connectivity.
Vivian welcomed China's proposal on the mutual recognition of Covid-19 health certificates for cross-border travel, stressing that the health certificates will include things other vaccinations, and also include serology, PCR testing and other information from "verifiable, authorised sources".
While he noted that he was unable to provide a timeline on further reopening of cross-border travel with China beyond the current agreements, which includes Reciprocal Green Lanes (RGL), Vivian assured that China "is obviously looking at (Singapore's) figures", and that discussions were moving in a positive direction.
Adding that this is his first visit to China since the Covid-19 outbreak began, the foreign minister noted that the trip, in a sense, represented the "renewal of the diplomatic tempo in a post-Covid era".
Major power "rivalry"
A journalist asked if China's "charm offensive" of Southeast Asian countries was a response to "strategic competition" from the U.S., pointing to recent visits of high-level officials to the region.
Vivian pointed out that the visits, including his own to China, were a "reversion to the norm", as he regularly visited China before the pandemic.
As for rivalry between the superpowers, Vivian said that this called for more engagement, not less. He called China's willingness to "engage extensively" a "positive step", and said he was sure that the new Biden Administration in America would do likewise.
In the case of Singapore, Vivian said they would engage with all their partners.
"We really need to do more, not less" he added, noting that even in an age when people were communicating through video-conferences, nothing beats meeting face to face.
Top image via Ministry of Foreign Affairs